For most of my youth (and well into adulthood), I believed that the best part of eating artichokes was the melted butter that accompanied them. This was the sole reason I’d endure the tedious process of scraping away at each leaf. That, along with the knowledge I’d be treated to a tender heart I could dunk in the remaining butter, kept me going. Since one can’t indulge in such decadence all the time, I have grown to appreciate a new condiment: a combination of Greek yogurt, Dijon mustard, and fresh dill. Sound boring compared to melted butter? Well, it’s definitely not as rich, but it is creamy and the mustard gives it a little kick, which definitely adds to the experience.
Until now, I’d been steaming my artichokes. This, I’ve learned, is not the most exciting way to prepare them. After recently trying my hand at roasting them with olive oil, lemon, and some garlic cloves, I’m now a convert to this method. In fact, a dipping sauce becomes less essential since the flesh has already been infused with these flavors and is seasoned with salt. I’m not saying you shouldn’t include the yogurt-mustard sauce or lemon butter, but if you don’t feel like mixing it up, there’s enough going on with these roasted ‘chokes that you probably won’t miss it.
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Eric and I returned home on Sunday to find a note left by my mom. “I love you,” it said. “We had a wonderful time in your beautiful and warm home.” Somehow she’d found a way to tuck this in our office without us noticing. It was a lovely message to receive after a fantastic weekend. I’d been anxiously awaiting this visit from my parents. For one thing, they hadn’t seen the house. Yes, we sent photos and videos and did our best to describe things in as much detail as we could. But that isn’t the same as experiencing it. They got to walk around the garden and see all the flowers that have started to crop up these last couple of weeks. They got to meet our neighbors and see what a charming street we’re on.
There was a lot accomplished this weekend, especially in the way of decorating. They brought up furniture that came from my grandmother, who passed away a few months ago. I didn’t know how it’d fit in the house, but I’m beyond thrilled with how it’s all turned out. It’s nice to have a piece of my grandparents here… especially the two brown leather recliners that now reside in our living room. They were their favorite chairs and every time I sit in one, I’ll remember the hours they spent in them, working on crossword puzzles, reading, or watching basketball games.
My parents took us to get some lamps and pillows and treated us to new sheets and a comforter and a throw to lay on top of the bed (you know… grown up things). And my mom, with her incredible eye, helped us figure out what art to hang on the walls. In addition to all the errands, we did dinner with Eric’s mom and dad and their partners. On Friday, I cooked up a storm, even going so far as to make an appetizer for everyone to nosh on before the meal (again… so grown up). There was wine and scotch and wonderful conversation. And, most importantly, we got to just be together in our home.
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I’m finally getting a feel for the light in the house. I know a lot of folks assumed that this was the first thing I investigated when we initially looked at it, but, really, it was one of the last. In fact, I didn’t realize how good it was until I actually started playing around. Yes, the kitchen is a bit limited, but I do have two small patches that seem to work nicely. And that’s significantly better than our apartment. I didn’t tell a lot of people this, but I rarely photographed food in our old kitchen. The light just wasn’t very good. So I’d do a lot of the chopping and ingredient shots in the living room, head into the kitchen to cook, and then bring it all back into the living room. It was very challenging and I’m so glad those days are behind me.
In our new place, I get most of my shots in the dining room. There are three large windows that fill the room with just the right amount of light. I’m still getting a sense of the best places to shoot and it’s really exciting when I find a new area to work in.
So, I freaked out a little when I saw fiddleheads in the store. I can’t remember what I went in for. Whatever it was became insignificant as soon as I saw these. For some strange reason, I’m obsessed when I get my hands on them. Maybe it’s their unique shape or that they taste like asparagus, but with a slight grassy note. Whatever it is, I had to buy a bag. I often do a sauté with butter and garlic and will throw them on pasta or grits. This time, I wanted something different. Because they are potentially toxic, it’s a good idea to cook them first, which is what I did. And then I tossed them into an ice bath before throwing them into a bowl with chopped tomato and a light, lemony dressing. That may have been satisfying enough, but a salad doesn’t really hit the spot without the addition of cheese. I’m pretty sure the pecorino brings this whole dish together.
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It’s hard to find the words to express what an amazing experience this last Potluck was. For those who have never attended, I like to describe it as a non-conference conference. Yes, there are keynote speakers. Incredible ones, in fact. The topics, however, are not traditional. Instead of covering SEO and monetization, the themes at the Big Traveling Potluck are much bigger, forcing us to look at ways to improve our lives, and, thus, our writing and photography.
I had the pleasure of being the official photographer for the Potluck. This was the third I’ve photographed and it was such a wonderful experience. I hope these pictures illustrate the love, the passion, and all the incredible food.
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We got spoiled by a few days of really beautiful weather last week. But just before I left for California, it started getting cold again and, when I returned, nothing had changed. It’s pretty crisp out there. You don’t mind a few minutes walking at a fast clip, but any more than that isn’t much fun. That didn’t stop me from spending a little time in our garden. Mind you, I wasn’t actually gardening. Just looking to see what progress had been made while I was away. Every time I look, something else starts to come up. I can’t wait to see it all looks like at its peak.
Even though I swore that I’d take a day to recuperate from a weekend spent photographing the Potluck, I couldn’t help but take my camera out to get some pictures. I’ve been playing around with different flavored rims for my margaritas and one of my favorites is this one that’s made, very simply, by combining sugar with a ton of lemon and lime zest. I sprinkle that on a plate and add powdered ginger and a touch of Kosher salt. It just takes the whole margarita experience to a whole new level.
Speaking of margaritas… let’s chat about that. When it comes to margaritas, I’m kind of a traditionalist. Well, most of the time I am. If using fresh juice, I’m open to interpretation. Store-bought mix, however, is off limits. Who needs it? Not me! Yes, yes, I know limes are expensive right now. So, if you want, use grapefruit. Just please don’t use that cloyingly sweet pre-made mix. This one definitely isn’t traditional, but it’s just as refreshing and still the perfect balance of tart, sweet, and, with that special rim, just a little salty.
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Last week was filled with a lot of firsts. Not just for us, but for Maki too. It’s taken some time for her to get settled into the house. Even now, every time we leave, she runs to the door wondering, hoping, that we’ll take her back to our old place. It’s not that she’s uncomfortable in her new surroundings, just a bit confused. We haven’t made things easy either. In an effort to keep our brand new couch furless, she’s been barred from climbing aboard. It’s a new thing we’re trying and it probably won’t last very long. Not with those sad looks she gives us every time we scold her. What Maki has been enjoying is our yard. Full of sunlight, it’s the perfect place for napping. And then there are the smells — oh, the smells!!! — which never get old. When we go out for walks, she’s excited by every turn.
Of course, now that we’re getting back into a routine, I’m screwing things up by heading out to Southern California to photograph The Big Potluck. I look forward to these events because I know that, by the end, something in me will change. It’s not always a big thing… but just being around my peers, people who share a love for food, for writing and photography it, ignites my creative spirit. I’ll come home with stories for Eric and, hopefully, a little tan as well.
We opened the Cape house last weekend and, while much of it was spent getting things in order, I also found some time to lounge outside and catch up on some neglected magazines. I finally got to check out the seafood issue Saveur created and I instantly fell for the sardine recipes they printed. While I have every intention on trying all of them, I started with this white bean and sardine stew. If you’re wondering if this is a recipe to write home about, well, let me tell you, it’s wonderful. Even those not inclined to try sardines could get behind this hearty dish.
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